What is PR? Public relations refers to how a company communicates with people who are stakeholders in its business. This includes everyone from prospects and customers, to shareholders and corporate partners, to journalists, influencers, bloggers, vloggers and of course the general public. PR is so important because now more than ever the public are valuing trust in a company and their values, not just the quality of their products. PR is probably the most effective way to build trust and rapport with your audience. Not only that, but the explosion in social media and all the surrounding buzz and noise of the internet means that people have a voice – and that voice is loud!
Creating an effective PR strategy is important for many start-ups and SMEs to help them to create a positive buzz around their business and its products and services. To create a great PR strategy, you are likely to need to use various media channels to cultivate a positive public perception, whilst carefully managing any negative perceptions at the same time…
What is PR and why is it so important?
PR – or Public Relations – is an important marketing medium for pretty much every single business, no matter its size. Consumers are much more aware these days of the options open to them, and have higher expectations around quality and service – and are very clear about the types of businesses they do and do not want to be associated with. Therefore, it’s important that your target market knows your core values, and that this is effectively portrayed via your brand messaging via your sales collateral and marketing materials. A clear PR strategy makes it easy for consumers to know what your business is all about, and to build a connection to your products and the brand proposition that your company’s personality and character are built upon.
PR can often be confused with other forms of marketing. So, to help differentiate it from other media, marketing is more about raising brand awareness, whereas PR is about raising a brand’s reputation. With a strong reputation and high levels of trust, marketing (and thereafter sales) becomes a lot easier!
Types of PR
Entering the world of PR can be a bit of a minefield, and many don’t know where or how to start. So, to simplify the explanation, we have broken the world of PR into three primary, easy to understand groups:
- Owned media
- Paid media
- Earned media
Each one of these groups works towards the same end goal, but each one uses different strategies to achieve them.
Owned media refers to any sort of content creation or activity that is owned and created by a business. Most businesses will be doing this already but won’t necessarily be aware that this is PR. This type of media includes:
- Social media
- Blog posts
- Email newsletters
It is important that a brand sticks to a strategy when creating content and imagery about itself, rather than just putting out random or irrelevant content. Customers will want to be engaged, educated and inspired by a brand’s content with a clear implicit understanding of the core values underlying it. For example, if your brand stands for sustainability and eco-friendliness, then make sure these values are being portrayed in every single piece of content you are creating or sharing.
Paid media describes the process of paying to promote the content a business has created. This type of media includes:
- Social media activities
- Influencer engagement
- Press advertorials
This type of PR is not to be confused with digital marketing strategies. All of these tools are commonly used as part of an overall marketing strategy to drive consumers to a platform to convert into sales and conversions. However, this is not paid media PR. This type of PR refers to using these tools to promote content created by a business to build a brand’s reputation, and trust with potential customers, not to directly drive sales.
This is the most commonly understood type of PR, and is possibly the most effective tactic in boosting a brand’s reputation and reaching new potential customers. Earned media includes:
- Mentions by newspapers and news channels
- Articles about your business on popular blogs
Earned media is the most time-consuming and hardest type of media to obtain (hence the name ‘earned media’). However, it is by far the most effective type of PR. There are so many examples of tiny start-ups that have become booming businesses (sometimes almost overnight) because of a mention from a popular newspaper or influential person.
Alternatively, earned media also includes:
- Recommendations and reviews by customers on your website and social media
This type of PR is earned gradually by giving your customers a really great service and product offer, so they are happy to vouch for your business. This is a great way to build trust with your audience and reassure prospective customers that they can expect a great experience with your brand.
Unlike most forms of digital and non-digital marketing, PR doesn’t always have a direct and measurable effect on sales, but the goal is to generally improve brand awareness within your target audience. Therefore, with more potential customers knowing about your brand, the more website visits and more conversions you are likely to receive.
How to create an effective PR strategy
Now you understand the basics of PR, it’s time to understand how to put together an effective strategy. Here are the key steps you need to consider:
- Competitor Research
This is a great place to start. Look at your most successful competitors and take as many learnings as possible. Identify the types of media they put out about themselves. What type of content are they creating, and what types of content are they sharing? What are the comments on their content, is the audience engaged? Do they even talk directly about their products, or are they simply building a relationship with potential customers about the marketplace in general?
Now take a look at their earned media mentions. What types of publications have they been mentioned in, and how successful were these mentions (you can gauge this by seeing how many times the article was shared, commented on and liked)? What was the key messaging angle they took in the publications; what made the journalist or influential person want to talk about this business? This is a great way to start noting down some names of journalists and influential people in your industry – if they are interested in your competitors, they might be interested in writing about your company too.
- How do you want your brand to be perceived?
It’s time to think about what your business stands for, and how you want it to be perceived in your marketplace. Choose your core values carefully, and make sure these values and your key message are portrayed consistently across all your sales and marketing materials.
For established businesses, you might want to think about the current perception of your company within the marketplace. What strengths and weaknesses does your business have, and do your customers currently have a positive perception of your brand? If not, think about how you can start re-building and repairing this relationship.
- Think about a business introduction
This should be a concise introduction to your business that allows the reader to understand, instantly, what your business is, its USPs, where in the market it stands in terms of value, service and price, and why they should be interested in taking a closer look.
Having a clear and concise business “elevator pitch” will not only help you to define the core details about your organisation and its key offerings, but it will also come in handy when you start approaching journalists, bloggers and influencers to persuade them to talk about your business.
It’s also a good tool to use internally too, to make sure that everyone who represents your company is singing off the same hymn sheet.
- Be Proactive and Reactive
With the huge amounts of content released every second in the media, it is important to be proactive and reactive about how your brand name is mentioned in the media. Being proactive in this respect could make all the difference between a positive and negative public image of your business within its target audience.
This can include:
- Being readily available on social media – replying to comments and questions quickly, and always keeping your brand’s tone of voice consistesnt. Customers want to understand the people, who they are and what they care about.
- Keeping on top of potential mentions – if you know an article or mention is being released about your business, know when it is going live and be engaging across both the article itself and social media. This includes responding to comments quickly and making the most of the hype.
- Keep your contact details up to date – if a journalist is wanting to write an article on your business, they often don’t have a lot of time. So, it’s important you keep on top of messages and respond quickly to any opportunities as and when they come in.
- Appoint a designated PR champion
A good PR strategy can often mean a complete 365 degree turn for a business, especially if it is mentioned in popular and relevant publications. However, despite all the great things about PR, it can often be a time-consuming business, with mixed results on your hard work.
Therefore, it is worth appointing an experienced and designated PR champion who understands the minefield of public relations, the myriad of media, strategies and tactics, and knows how to get effective results in your marketplace to achieve your goals.
PR agency in London
Looking for a PR agency in London? We can help develop a successful PR strategy for your business. We understand that every company is different, and will develop a bespoke PR plan that is tailormade for your business. We use our strategic marketing planning process as the framework to create an effective public relations plan.
To book your free consultation, please email Stephen Taylor-Brown, our Client Services Director, at [email protected], or call us on 020 3858 7836. You can find out more about who we are and what we do by visiting our website at www.abacusmarketing.co.uk.